The Price of Redemption
By Midii Une
When he’d found her again and the inevitable conclusion to their reunion had been reached he had thought that emptiness inside him would be a thing of the past.
But that wasn’t to be. It was back but this time there were sharp edges left behind. Their present, their future destroyed, he couldn’t protect it from the destructive forces that threatened from the outside.
He’d always envied those who had something to protect, maybe it had all started with Midii, the conviction in her voice when she told him why she’d destroyed his world. And then he had finally gotten his wish, he had someone to protect. Only in finding her he had lost the single-mindedness that made him what he was.
Were they right? Had he been lucky during the war, lucky not to have strong feelings for anyone, enemy or friend. Midii had said so and later, after the war was over he’d met someone he’d fought with before moving to L3. And Ralph had said the same thing as Midii.
“I think I envied you Trowa,” he’d said, and although the words were an attempt to gain his friendship there was truth in them. “You had no doubts, no distractions. You were the perfect soldier.”
Had he been better off then? He had cared about no one and no one could beat him. And now he cared too much and he couldn’t even find one man. It didn’t matter that that man had been trained to hide himself, was as good as Midii was at disappearing.
“I found her once,” he reminded himself, remembering the little stone house, the days of perfect happiness.
“I’ll find him.”
He didn’t feel reassured.
The digital clock numbers flipped. It was 2:30 am. Sleep, Trowa commanded himself. There had been a time when he had been so disciplined that that had been all it took. Now his eyelids sprung open. He didn’t know if he’d feel any better once he found Ichiban but it was the driving force that kept him going right now in a world where Midii looked at him with icy detachment in her eyes and even his dreams of her were marred by blood.
Trowa got out of bed, he was fully dressed, it barely seemed worth the trouble to take his clothes off when he knew he wouldn’t sleep. Trowa turned on the cold-water tap and let the water run over his hand till it was icy and then he ran his fingers over his face. He rolled his shoulder, easing out the stiffness where Eva had shot him as she died. Why, he wondered, why was it so easy for her to make me doubt Midii? Why did losing her have to be the price of his doubt?
Inside the little diner it was bright and warm. Perpetually cheerful, perpetually daylight. The door squeaked and Molly felt her heart race a little when the tall, familiar figure came in. He’d told her he wouldn’t be around long but with the inter-colonial space shuttle pilots’ strike threatening he might get stranded here. If that happened it would be like it had used to be before the war had ended. It didn’t bother Molly much, she had never traveled off this colony but a lot of the customers spent a lot of time complaining about it.
And somehow she was pleased that it meant he might stay. Trowa.
“Molly,” an amused voice sang. “Oh Molly, you’re staring!”
She blushed and turned back to the coffee grinder. “Stop it Heidi! He’ll hear you,” she protested, shooting her co-worker a look of embarrassed dismay. “I just think he’s handsome that’s all. Tell me you don’t think so? Besides he’s so nice.”
“How can you tell,” Heidi snorted derisively. “He never says anything. Although he does usually leave a decent tip.”
“I can just tell,” Molly said softly, her eyes focused with yearning on the handsome, mysterious stranger.
It was always a shock when she leaned into the booth and poured his coffee, in that first second her likeness to Midii was almost like a slap in the face.
“It’s quiet tonight,” she said, sliding into the seat across from him. When he really looked at her the feeling faded, she was nothing like Midii.
“Talk to me,” he said, raising his eyes from the table to look at her pretty face. She looked happy and innocent, if a bit tired from all the work she did. Had Midii ever in her life looked like that? Genuinely innocent and really happy? How would he even know it if she did, the mask she wore was as real as the one he did when he performed in the circus.
It was odd for Trowa to pry into the life of strangers but now he wondered what it was like to be just a regular person. Not an orphaned soldier with extraordinary skills that was in love with a girl that had killed the only people he’d felt were his family, but just a person who didn’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Someone like Molly.
“Oh gosh,” she said, a blush creeping over her cheeks as she became flustered by his request. “I’m so boring Trowa. I take care of my brothers, sleep a little while they’re at school and work here at night. That’s about all I’ve ever done. I’ve worked all kinds of little jobs to support them since my Dad died. I love them a lot. Maybe you’ll meet them some day.”
“That must have been hard on you,” Trowa said. Maybe no one had had it easy, it was all in the way you handled it. What was it that made Midii so different than Molly? He’d asked her about her brothers once but she’d shied away from the question as if he’d touched an open wound. He wasn’t being fair to her, he knew, everyone had different circumstances.
Molly nodded. “It was tough, but things are finally better now they’re older and they help me out. I just wish I could do more for them, we really don’t have a lot.”
He was silent awhile before she dared to ask the question that had been on her mind.
“Why are you here Trowa,” she asked. “Don’t you have anyone? Tell me about you.”
What could he say? His own life was so bizarre no one like her would believe and if they did they’d be shocked.
“It didn’t work out,” he sighed.
“I’m so sorry,” she said sincerely. “Do you want to talk about it? What happened?”
Molly couldn’t imagine any girl breaking things off with this guy. He had something special about him she couldn’t put her finger on. He was far from ordinary and his being here alone like this with only her for a friend seemed very odd.
“I got angry,” he said, actually considering and looking at what happened, forcing himself to relive it. “We knew each other when we were children and something awful happened between us. We got back together not so long ago and everything was great but something happened and it was like our past slapped me in the face. She hadn’t done anything wrong but I overreacted, I couldn’t believe in her after what happened before. I said horrible things, I know I hurt her . . .”
“Won’t she forgive you?” Molly asked, shocked by his confession. It was hard to believe this kind, quiet man could ever have such an awful break-up with someone he cared for and she could tell by his voice that he still loved the girl he talked about.
He shook his head. “I haven’t even told you all of it. She nearly died, how could she forgive me? I saw her the other day, I called someone I knew and she was there. The look on her face . . .she wanted so much for me to believe in her and I couldn’t. Maybe I should never have tracked her down in the first place but I wanted to be with her so much that I didn’t let it matter.”
Molly reached her small hand, reddened by time spent in dishwater, toward Trowa’s and laid it over his comfortingly. They sat in silence as she wondered about what he said. It all seemed so unreal, so far away from the bright pleasant diner, so dark and unbelievable.
Molly rubbed her eyes. It had taken so much longer than usual to fall asleep and she wondered if the boys were home already as the doorbell rang insistently again. She looked at the clock. It was only noon.
“Coming,” she shouted, as she climbed reluctantly out of bed and stumbled to the door.
She stared with sleep-dazed eyes at the huge bouquet of perfect blood-red roses the delivery boy held out to her.
“For me,” she asked, disbelief coloring her voice. No one had ever sent her flowers before.
“Molly Adams,” the boy asked, impatient to get his tip and leave.
The tired girl nodded and he handed her the flowers and looked at her expectantly. “Oh a tip,” she said, smiling softly as the lovely fragrance of the roses surrounded her. She was a waitress and she knew the value of a tip. Molly ran to the kitchen and returned with some crumpled bills from the hidden stash in the unused teapot and paid the boy before turning her attention to the flowers.
She opened the little white card.
It only lingers
Your touch shall now disappear
“A little poem,” she said wonderingly, guessing at it’s meaning. It made very little sense and there was no signature.
“These must be from Trowa,” she thought, touching the soft petals gently with her fingertips and smiling happily. He’d walked her home, telling her it was dangerous to be out so early in the morning with so few people around and he’d finally accepted her invitation to dinner tonight to meet her brothers.
Was it possible he could ever forget the girl who was causing him so much heartache? Her heart pounded with excitement before she cautioned herself not to read too much into his sending her flowers. He was just being nice and it seemed clear that they couldn’t be more than friends. But she couldn’t help smiling even if she didn’t know what the words he’d written her meant.
She glanced around the cramped little apartment. Her excitement over the flowers banished her exhaustion and she felt a sudden urge to clean the place until it shone. Molly pulled open the heavy blinds and blinked out at the sunny sky, marred by a criss-cross of wires that ran over the nearby hydro-power plant that provided most of the energy for their sector of the colony. Their proximity to the plant made the apartment more affordable but she really didn’t mind the view and the ever-present roar of the turbulent swirling water was soothing in a way.
She shivered a little despite the sunlight as she looked at the rough water. Sometimes though she had nightmares that Andy, her youngest brother was teetering on the edge of the abyss. But that was silly, she could admit in the daylight. The surrounding walls were too high for a 6-year-old to manage. He was safe. Absently she fingered the bouquet of roses still in her hand.
Cathrine’s eyes glittered. Wasn’t Heero going to do anything about Midii’s disappearance? They were all taking this way too calmly. He should call Trowa right now; he’d come home for sure. If he didn’t come back soon he’d be stranded wherever he was by the stupid shuttle pilots’ strike everyone was talking about.
“Aren’t you listening? Midii’s gone. I know something’s happened to her,” Cathrine said for the third time, her frustration increasing as Heero looked at her blankly. “Those flowers came after she left. The card scared me. You need to look for her.”
The tears she sheds on parting will
turn to dew when morning comes
Those tears, like pearls, fall in vain
Heero read over the card that Cathrine threw on his desk. His eyes narrowed, definitely another threat from Ichiban. But why would he send the flowers to Midii if he had already made her disappear?
Finally he spoke.
“I think all of us are getting a little tired of Midii’s disappearing. We have no reason to believe Richard Ichiban is on this colony. The spaceports are being carefully monitored and according to Trowa’s last report the suspect in the Brussels incident is still on the same colony he is,” Heero said. “Midii Une is not in Preventer custody, she’s an employee. Of course if she doesn’t show up at work in a few days she’ll lose her position but that’s it.”
Cathrine glared but it was ineffectual, Heero had seen much worse in his life.
“I want you to contact Trowa and let him decide,” she said, reaching up to tug on her earring, forgetting momentarily that she’d misplaced her lucky star-shaped jewelry. It seemed like a bad sign on a day that was already setting her on edge.
“If she’s not back next time he checks in then I’ll mention it to him,” Heero said, effectively ending their meeting. He had a good idea where Midii might be and if she was successful he’d let the matter drop. It was at Sally’s insistence that he’d kept her from going out on a few easy missions. She’d just better not mess things up. Still he had a feeling she was just the person they needed on this particular case.
Diarmid Walker restrained himself, but only barely, from slamming the door of Thomas Bertrand’s office. He’d learned absolutely nothing from the Union President except the strike was nearly a sure thing. The Preventer Agency could not let this happen but their offer of help with the important negotiations had been summarily turned down.
He’d been so confident when Lady Une had given him this chance.
“Your superiors on Earth have described you as loyal and charming,” she’d said, almost smiling back as he grinned at her.
“Use those skills to get a foothold with the Union President, Mr. Bertrand,” she continued. “This strike must be avoided at all costs. It’s almost as if someone is trying to stop people from traveling between colonies. That was one of the main complaints of people in space during the war and we have to maintain the people’s confidence in their freedom. Do you understand?”
He was lost in thought and didn’t notice the girl staring out the window and tugging on her hair, primping her reflection in the window.
Determination glinted in her eyes as she caught the young man in the corner of her eye and kept her back turned until he was out of sight. She smiled at the departing figure thinking she owed him a favor for helping her out last night and since she was unofficial someone other than herself would have to take the credit for the successful mission. And it would be successful. She reached up and touched the star-shaped earring she wore for good luck and replaced the smile with a shy and nervous expression.
Bertrand looked up from his desk at a sound in the doorway.
“Who the hell are you,” he asked, disapproval in his voice, as he looked the girl over. Her sun-streaked blonde hair was caught up in two large ponytails on each side of her head and she wore tiny yellow-tinted sunglasses on the tip of her nose that had to be for decoration rather than to see with. She looked like she belonged in a dance club serving drinks, not here in his office. Her bangle bracelets clanged together as she lifted a hand to tug on her hair shyly.
She stuck out a hand and smiled at him disarmingly.
“Why I’m Mimi Dunn, of course. The temporary the service sent over. I’m so happy to meet you Mr. Bertrand,” she said, a soft Australian accent coloring her voice.
Bertrand sighed as the girl knocked over the pencil holder on his desk and kept chattering as she picked up the mess. First that irritating Preventer agent and now this inept temporary secretary, could his day get any worse?
The girl, Mimi, complained about the room being stuffy and opened a window, the stiff winter breeze blowing important contract documents around the room and he wondered why he had asked himself such a stupid question.
“Sorry,” she blushed, bending to pick up the papers, allowing him a glimpse at the deep V in the snug-fitting orange shirt she wore over a short yellow suede skirt.
He swallowed painfully, she was clumsy and seemed rather stupid but she was really a cute girl and he didn’t have the heart to fire her when she smiled at him hopefully her eyes shining behind those ridiculous little sunglasses. He was 45 years old, his hair starting to thin and his middle starting to thicken and he was totally willing prey to the charms of 19-year-old girls.
Secretarial skills were optional. Just looking at Miss Dunn would relieve the stress these negotiations were overwhelming him with.
“Strange,” Midii thought, returning her attention to the papers she picked up as she crawled around on the floor affording Bertrand a better view of her assets and cementing his decision to let her stay in his employ. It seemed as if they weren’t even trying to negotiate this important issue. Half these papers hadn’t even been updated. Something was rotten in this office and she was just the agent to find it out
It was happening again, she was unhappy and frightened and he had this ungodly urge to do something about it. Chang Wufei did not like being overwhelmed by anything, particularly things that had to do with emotions. Most particularly emotions that had to do with women.
First he’d only wanted her to stop ranting about Heero and Trowa and Richard Ichiban. He was thankful she hadn’t expected him to go running after her wayward roommate. He cringed at the thought of entangling himself in that woman’s life again. Their few short days working together in Brussels had been more than enough for one lifetime, thank you very much. Trowa was welcome to her and even he had finally had the sense to run from the walking disaster that was Midii Une.
Cathrine however held on tightly to those she loved, fierce as a mother lion. And she loved Midii having gotten the odd notion in her head that she was the only girl for Trowa.
So while she hadn’t actually said she wanted him to go over Heero’s head and order an active search for Midii he could sense her turbulence and genuine anxiety. Part of him was touched by her obvious sense of honor; even now she wouldn’t use their relationship to get what she wanted from him. Cathrine Bloom was a rare woman and beautiful as well.
Finally she came to rest beside him, her nervous motion stilled by tiredness and a deep need, a need to be held and reassured. Cathy sat cross-legged on the couch and clutched one of the many little velvet pillows that Midii had filled the room with, most of them were too small to actually curl up and lay your head on but Cathrine had found they were wonderful just to hold on to. Her fingers tangled in the silky fringe as she swallowed back her tears. She didn’t want to cry, not in front of him. His opinion meant so much to her and she wished she could meet her problems with the serenity and conviction this man seemed to have.
“Close your eyes,” he said, the voice matter-of-fact with no trace of condescension or even sympathy. He simply was.
“Close your eyes,” he said again and she did as he said, feeling the strong fluid motion of his fingers softly stroking the back of her neck in a soothing rhythm.
“We can’t control people. The only individual we have power over is ourselves. Each person makes their own decisions and is responsible for their own well-being,” he said quietly, repeating the ancient wisdom of his childhood studies.
Her eyes flew open and she shook her head stubbornly, so like a child, her auburn curls shaking with the motion of her head and her full lower lip pushing out slightly.
“You have to take care of the ones you love,” she insisted, meeting his eyes. “You have to keep them safe.”
Trying to do that was like banging your head against a brick wall, Wufei thought, banishing memories of Meiran and then forcing himself to think of her. Perhaps this was the time after all . . .
“I was married,” he said, almost smiling at the total surprise on her face. Her face was so expressive and she never hid her emotions.
“Huh? Married? What happened,” she asked. He could tell that if nothing else at least his story would distract her, but he hoped that it would help her too.
“She died. I thought a strong husband should protect his wife but she died anyway. I fought the war to honor her spirit. She wanted to be justice—Nataku, I couldn’t stop her or protect her.”
“I’m sorry, so sorry,” Cathrine said. But she was puzzled. Surely after what happened to him he must see her point of view.
‘I don’t understand,” she sighed. “You know I’m right, you lost someone. Why don’t you see?”
On top of everything else had they all been right about him? Had she been considering giving her heart to someone who was cold and unfeeling, someone constrained from loving because of his own overwhelming sense of self-righteousness?
Were the two of them so far apart in philosophy that being together like this was ridiculous? She had admired him, his strength, his quiet dignity, the beauty she saw in the silky black strands that framed his face. Had she been wrong?
The soothing fingers caressing her neck stopped their motion. Where were things heading? He could sense her quickened breathing as her emotions rose; see the fire building in her pale violet eyes. Cathrine.
Fiery and gentle, a truly incendiary combination in a woman.
As far as he was concerned . . .
His fingers began moving again, caressing instead of massaging, the feel of her skin sending signals up the network of nerve endings and setting off something primitive and uncontrolled, dissolving a wall that had seemed so solid and strong.
The black eyes that studied her inscrutably seemed veiled as always but they held an oddly alert look as if he was weighing her character.
The fire hidden in Cathrine Bloom sparked and flashed suddenly, the effect devastating. Her eyes sparkled beneath slanted lids, giving her an exotic gypsyish quality and passion transformed her face into that of a gorgeous avenging angel.
“You wont’ say it but you’re thinking I’m a weak fool! Aren’t you? I always thought you were just quiet that there was more inside of you,” Cathrine said, her doubts and suspicions about her companion flooding to the surface and breaking forth like a burst dam. “I can’t be like you. Can’t care only for the big picture. What does the big picture matter if you can’t save the ones you love?”
He couldn’t answer and as his fingers trailed down the soft, heated skin of her arm she yanked away violently.
“Go away,” she said. “I’d rather be alone than be with someone who just doesn’t care about anyone else.”
Time stopped and everything seemed magnified and terribly intense. It was as if each of her breaths, each of her heartbeats was like his own, keeping them both alive. Angry tears glittered like tiny jewels on the edge of her lashes and the rise and fall of her breasts was rapid, mirroring the unprecedented racing of his own heart.
Leave her? Get out of her life?
Because she thought he didn’t care.
Wufei stood, honor battling with growing despair. If he left he knew he would never allow himself to come back. Her red lips trembled slightly as she looked up at him with angry, luminous eyes.
Was he just going to leave, she wondered, had her accusations been correct? Part of her had hoped he’d defend himself at least. Prove to her he cared about something, someone.
Black eyes held violet in a battle of wills. Wufei saw Trowa beneath his sword, the look in his eyes bringing doubts as he used his strength to protect Dekim Barton. The same look in Cathrine’s eyes, some uncanny link between them.
Her beliefs were not his and yet she was not wrong. Except on one point. He cared for someone.
Unbelievably his own voice was breaking the heavy silence between them. His tone soft and coming from a place deep in the hidden recesses of his heart. A place he had never looked before, a place that had never been touched by another.
“I won’t leave then,” he said, sitting back down beside her and firmly replacing his hand on her arm in a possessive grasp. “I won’t back down. You have to let people live their own lives, they will Cathrine, no matter how you fight it. But I do know what it is to care and maybe I love you because you care so much, because you can show me how.”
A tear dropped from the edge of her lash and his hand rose to catch it. A warm diamond in his hand before it soaked in.
“You love me,” she whispered, her anger dying as she heard his confession, her face as beautiful as realization brought a soft look of passion as it had been in the heat of her anger.
“I can show you,” he said, drawing closer. “There are no words. But if you let me . . .”
She took his hand and brought it to the curve of her cheek, pressing herself against his fingers and closing her eyes.
“Please,” she said. “Show me.”
Her hand guided his to the curve of her breast, the soft skin swelling over the snug material of her shirt. It was warm beneath his hand, the pounding of her heart an intoxicating rhythm that heated his blood. Inside something stirred, his sense of honor protested the step he was about to take, but as she bent forward to touch his lips with hers passion overwhelmed honor.
Gratification as fierce and strong as victory in battle swept over him as she whispered her love and clung to him as he showed her what he felt.
Midii felt eyes on her and smiled over the top of her computer screen, fingers ready to hide the files she was copying. Perhaps she looked too busy, too competent, she worried, reaching for a tube of cotton-candy flavored lip gloss she kept in her desk drawer right next to the little sandpaper nail file and all Mimi Dunn’s other important accessories.
She applied the gloss generously, humming a little, pursing her lips and seeming to admire her reflection in the computer screen as she scanned the incriminating information. Her attention wavered as the cotton candy scent lingered sweet and sugary in the air.
He hid something behind his back; she’d glimpsed the pink wrapped in plastic before he hurried to conceal his secret from her prying eyes.
“Flowers! Oh Trowa,” she shrieked in delight, more that he had thought to make the romantic gesture than from excitement over the flowers themselves.
He shook his head and backed away, biting back laughter.
“Don’t try to hide! I already saw,” she said smugly, confident he could hide nothing from her.
Slowly he withdrew the gift from behind his back.
“Cotton candy?! You brought me a bouquet of cotton candy,” she said, her voice teasing as they played their game. She knew exactly where it would lead them. “Trowa that stuff is junk. Nothing but pure sugar.”
“Then you don’t like it,” he asked, turning the tables and affecting a pout. “It’s called a stick of cotton candy Midii, not a bouquet.”
She laughed and shrugged, shaking her head over the novelty of Trowa, pouting. In all her dreams of being with him she had never hoped for something as simple as this.
“Okay,” she admitted, coughing slightly. “It’s a lovely gift. Very pretty pink. But what do you expect me to do with it?”
He looked at her as if she were stupid.
“You eat it Midii.”
“The thought makes my teeth hurt,” she protested. “Besides, I’ll get fat!”
Trowa tossed the candy aside and caught her around the waist lifting her easily over his head until she was suspended above him looking down between curtains of golden hair.
“Let me down, you’ll drop me,” she begged, gasping with laughter as he held her in place close to the ceiling, his arms unshaking. She felt her stomach flip-flop as he took his hands away and she fell through the air for a second before he caught her again and pulled her close for a kiss, feeling her heart pound against his chest.
They stood quietly wrapped in each other’s arms, it was that way sometimes between them a magical moment when they both realized how lucky they were to be together, despite everything. Finally he let go to retrieve his candy and hold it out to her again.
“Okay,” she sighed in defeat. “One bite.”
She reached out and gingerly pulled off a small fluffy piece of the pink spun sugar.
“Wouldn’t chocolates with raspberry liqueur inside been more appropriate she asked, stalling, and raising an inquisitive eyebrow at her lover.
Trowa sighed and Midii mimicked the sound then stuck out her tongue before backing away to avoid any other sneak attacks, feeling she’d spent enough time in the air for one day.
She popped the bit of cotton candy in her mouth and her eyes lit with that childlike bliss the stuff seemed to inspire in everyone. Midii saw his triumphant gaze and tried to resist but her hand seemed to move on it’s own to grab another, larger piece of the candy.
“D’accord,” she said, smiling with slightly-sticky pink lips. “It’s not so bad.”
“You’re not doing it right,” Trowa said, pulling the stick away as she reached for another piece.
“I’m a professional,” Trowa said, demonstrating the proper way to eat a stick of cotton candy, bending his into the pink cloud and coming away with fluffy bits stuck to his nose.
“Well,” Midii said dryly, “your way does have its advantages you look so cute with that stuff in your hair.”
“Shit,” Trowa cursed. ‘It’s in my hair?”
She nodded and made a grab for the candy, making a dash for the bedroom and bouncing onto the bed as he followed, peering at himself in the mirror over her dresser and examining his hair. Midii continued giggling, he was strangely protective of his hair and it was rather comical to see him searching through the long bangs for some sign of confectionary contamination.
Hesitantly she leaned into the candy and cautiously bit into the billowing mass, feeling the stickiness cling to her face. Definitely she decided, the stuff was very, very good. Pure, processed, sugary, happiness, she admitted.
The stick disappeared as she leaned forward for another taste and she found herself nose-to-nose instead with a very put out clown.
“There was no candy in my hair,” Trowa growled as Midii put on her most angelic face.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” she whispered, snuggling closer and reaching around him to grab another piece, placing it gently between Trowa’s parted lips. The back of her knees tingled as her finger touched the glittering sugar crystals that stuck to his lips and he pushed her back on the bed. He leaned in close and she kissed him, tasting the sugar on his lips and cheeks and the tip of his nose. So sweet . . .
Miss Dunn? Miss Dunn, is everything alright,” Mr. Bertrand said, unable to help but admire the dreamy look on the little secretary’s face.
She startled and flushed apologetically, hastily closing the file before her.
“I’m sorry. What is it,” she asked.
“It’s 5 o’clock,” he said. “You can leave now.”
Midii nodded and grabbed her things, she’d let time get away from her but with the passwords she had acquired she could hack into the system from the comfort of her hotel room. By morning she’d be at the bottom of it all and then Preventer would have a leg to stand on in these negotiations.
But it was so hard to keep her mind on the mission; it was well in hand, a piece of cake so to speak. She’d be home tomorrow night if everything went to plan. She picked up the little tube of lip gloss and stuffed it in her pocket as she walked out.
“Oh Trowa,”she wondered. “Where are you and what are you thinking about right now?”
Trowa’s eyes kept returning to the single dusty bottle of Chardonnay pushed to the back of the top wine shelf.
Maison Petitvert, AC 189 
“Taste this one,” she whispered in his ear, blowing gently. He could feel the smile on her face as they sat in the dark lit by a single candle.
“I get it,” he said. “You’re trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me.”
She sighed. “No, no. That’s not it. Although I will take advantage of you later if you wish. I really need you to tell me which one of these you like better.”
It was like the first night, the night that Cathy had sent him on a transparent errand to meet her ‘friend.’ Did she realize how similar it was? The wine, the candlelight, the two of them so close in the dark. He drove the thoughts away. Tonight was a much happier occasion, one month since he’d found her again in Provence. One month since their arrangement had been put into place.
“I still say you’re up to something,” he insisted, but his voice was light as he reached out to grasp a strand of her wavy hair.
“I am always up to something,” she admitted, affecting a sultry Russian accent that sent tingles up his spine. “But you should cooperate, I promise it’s for your own good.”
He obediently sipped the glass of wine she held out as she watched him closely, waiting for his reaction.
The wine was smooth and he held the glass so the candlelight shone through the shimmering gold liquid. This one was really good, the perfect blend of dry and fruity, he could taste pears and apples and the Chardonnay grapes and a vague flavor of oak from the barrel it had aged in. He found himself wondering momentarily where she’d gotten the funding for this little wine tasting adventure of hers but at that point in their relationship he was learning it was best not to ask about some things.
His eyes met her hopeful ones. “This one,” he said finally, as a happy smile dawned on her expectant face. “It’s perfect. Just like you.”
“Trowa,” she said, sadness edging her voice. “I’m not perfect.”
“Perfect for me,” he said, taking another sip and holding the glass out to her, watching as she turned the glass and put her lips on the spot his had been, letting them linger on the glass suggestively as her eyes met his. The gesture making the pulse beat in his throat quicken.
“So you’re sure,” she said, dropping the painful subject of perfection. “This is the one you like the best?”
He nodded and she leaned forward to pick up the bottle.
“I’m so glad,” she whispered, her eyes shining in the candlelight. “This is our wine now, our special wine. Whenever something important or wonderful happens this is what we’ll drink. I’ll have to start collecting it, it’s not easy to find.”
“And you think we’ll need a lot,” he asked, his voice growing husky as he set down the glass and nuzzled her neck.
“Mmmmm,” she murmured contentedly as his hand slipped to the hem of the skirt that rode up her thighs. She gasped as his cool fingers touched her warm skin and, her lips parted beneath his, he could taste her and the wine. . . sweet and tangy . . .she squeaked as the bottle tipped and he felt the cold liquid trickle of wine dripping down his back.
“Sorry,” she smiled. “Your fingers were cold . . .
She moved behind him and her slender fingers eased off his shirt, he could feel her lips against his skin, her arms encircling him from behind as she kissed away the sticky feeling of the drying wine, her hands moving in slow, sensuous circles over his chest and lower . . .
Voices disrupted his thoughts.
“Just grab something,” a woman said to her husband. “We’re supposed to be there at 5 o’clock and it’s already that now.”
He’d be late too Trowa thought, but instead of the red wine Molly had requested to accompany dinner he reached out for the Chardonnay, his fingers tracing the dusty label. Would he ever drink this with her again, he wondered as he quickly and without thought snatched a bottle of red wine from the shelf.
The cashier raised an eyebrow and whistled at the Chardonnay.
“Hey this is good stuff and we don’t get much in,” she said, admiring Trowa from beneath her lashes and engaging in a dream that he would invite her to share a glass.
Trowa didn’t notice. But the bottle was hope for him too, hope that he would see her again and that they would have something to celebrate. Being together.
To be continued . . .
Sowwy it’s getting too long so I’m gonna cut here, gosh darn Cotton Candy dreams and Chardonnay wishes took too many pages!! Ichiban: But you cut MY flashback (sob)
Tune in next time on The Price of Redemption where Ichiban may get his flashback and even share it with Trowa. (///_-: No thanks) . . . Diarmid complicates Midii’s mission . . . and our hero and anti-hero (but not Heero ^_^) take a dive.
Thanks to all who contributed haiku to this story!! They were all lovely. I’ll use more next time.
 Raven/DarkWindDragon’s written by her
Haiku submitted by Celena from “Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book”
 Maison Petitvert (a nod to one of my fave 3xMU authors: Little Green ^_~)